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Friday
Jan222016

Podcast #723: TCL Roku LCD TV Review

Smart TVs are all the rage these days. It seems like everyone has their own Smart TV platform that is supposed to be better, faster, cooler, more awe inspiring than the other guys’. But what is an upstart TV manufacturer like TCL, without the resources to go off and build it’s own smart TV platform supposed to do? Partner of course. They chose to partner with Roku to give you a jaw-dropping Smart TV out of the box without having to invest in building or maintaining their own. Sort of brilliant if you ask us.

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TCL Roku LED TV Review

Smart TVs are all the rage these days. It seems like everyone has their own Smart TV platform that is supposed to be better, faster, cooler, more awe inspiring than the other guys’. But what is an upstart TV manufacturer like TCL, without the resources to go off and build it’s own smart TV platform supposed to do? Partner of course. They chose to partner with Roku to give you a jaw-dropping Smart TV out of the box without having to invest in building or maintaining their own. Sort of brilliant if you ask us.

 Roku is a great Smart TV platform, whether standalone or embedded. We grabbed the 48” model that was selling at Costco for $349 to test it out, At that price it was considerably less expensive than the other more well-established brands, and it came with Roku built in. Not something we could easily pass up. The specific model we tested was the TCL 48" Class (47.5" Diag.) 1080p Roku LED LCD TV 48FS3750. You can pick one up for yourself from Costco for $349.99 or from Amazon for $349.99.


Features

  • Make it yours- Personalize your Home screen, put your favorite cable/satellite TV, streaming channels, gaming console, and other devices front-and-center. No more flipping through inputs or wading through complicated menus.
  • Find what you want- Search through the widest selection of channels – by keyword, actor, or title. Follow your favorite entertainment and always know when it is ready to stream—on what channel and at what price.
  • Control with a smartphone or tablet- With the free mobile app, transform your smartphone or tablet into a Roku remote and even browse and add new channels. Plus, find what you want fast with voice search - a fun way to find what you’re looking for.
  • Little screen, meet big screen- Send photos, videos, and music from your smartphone or tablet to the TV. Plus, cast movies, web videos, and more to your TV with with Netflix and YouTube mobile apps.
  • 1080p Full HD Resolution
  • Clear Motion Index 120 Refresh Rate
  • 3 HDMI, 1 USB, Built-in Wi-Fi, & Roku Streaming Software

Setup

Setting up the TV is simple, but it is a little different than you would expect. First steps are easy: setup your inputs and connect to WiFi. Setting up the inputs is pretty cool. You tell it what you have plugged into each of the inputs in the back of the TV, such as a Cable Box, Satellite Box, Blu-ray player, Gaming system, etc, and it adds an icon to the home screen for that device. No more scrolling through inputs, you just select the device icon like you would any other app and away you go. Connecting to WiFi is the same as any other network TV or set top box.

Once you get on the network, you’re given a code to register the device to your Roku account using anything with a web browser, could be a desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone. If you don’t have an account, you create one. If you have any other Roku devices, you just add the TCL TV with the registration code and away you go. You use the online account to select what apps (Roku calls them channels) you want on the TV.

We thought this was going to be awesome. At first the idea of creating a Roku account just to use the TV seemed cumbersome. But if we were able to select the apps we wanted, then sign into each of those apps on the web, using the full keyboard we had available on the laptop, it would save a ton of time. Subscription info would be pushed down to the TV, and there you go, instant Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Pandora, you name it. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case. You select the apps online, but you still have to sign into them from the TV using the tiny remote. Wasted opportunity if you ask us.


Performance

Once you have everything setup and the Apps are registered and authenticated, you’re good to go. You can use the TV as a standard television, or select from any of your configured apps. The Roku platform has by far more available app choices than any other Smart TV we’ve used. Because it is a neutral platform, you can get things like Netflix, Amazon, Google Play and Vudu all on the same box. Of course, no Apple. They’re still learning how to place nice with others. From the Smart TV and apps point of view, it worked great.

Beyond your standard streaming audio and video apps, Roku has other apps like Plex and its own Roku Media Player to get access to your own content from USB or the network. The TV can operate as an Video server playback device without the need for any external boxes. It even supports SlingTV so you can watch live television without having to pay a Cable or Satellite subscription. The TV is very versatile and we found all the apps to be snappy and they performed quite well.

As a television, the TCL is fine. It’s really what you would expect from a $350 almost 50 inch HDTV. The picture quality isn’t stellar. There are occasional artifacts on the screen, but it isn’t terrible. It is still quite a bit better than even the HDTVs from 5 or 6 years ago. The sound is pretty bad, but if you’re looking for good sound from a TV speaker, you’re probably not doing it right. All in all, average audio and video performance. Not a set you’d want to put at the center of your home theater, but not too bad for a bedroom, bonus room or garage.


Conclusion

Roku is a pretty killer platform. Having it built into the TV makes the set itself very versatile. With just WiFi and power you have access to a plethora of content options, including videos from your home network and live television using Sling TV.  For $350 you can add a video server viewing zone to just about any room without breaking the bank. We wouldn’t suggest it for the home theater or family room, but if you get one of these in the garage, somehow we think you might find yourself out there more often.


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Reader Comments (1)

I also had the same Star Wars The Force Awakens experience as the commenter in your podcast. I saw Star Wars the Force Awakens in an Emagine Emax theater with ATMOS and an Imax Digital theater. Although the Emagine Emax theater was a much better experience with a brighter 3D presentation and the powered reclining seats I was disappointed with the quality of the ATMOS presentation. Other than the ATMOS demo before the movie began I did not notice it at all. The Imax audio mix was much more dynamic and lead to more intense audio in the action scenes.

January 24, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbcabes

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